Ashton’s Temperament Produces “Animal House” Style Office Behavior, Embarrassing Attrition Rates.
By Jacob Engels
At this point you are probably wondering what can be said about Orange/Osceola State Attorney Jeff Ashton that has not already been said.
He is a showboating and attention grabbing prosecutor.
He muffed the prosecution of Casey Anthony. His office has the worst disposition rates in the state according to official records. He browsed erotic websites while on government time, using government resources and didn’t have the dignity to resign from office for doing so.
As the late Billy Mays would always say… “But wait! There’s more.” Indeed there is.
A review of Ashton’s time as a prosecutor over the past few decades reveal several admonishments and reprimands for temperament problems and a questionable professionalism displayed in and out of the court room.
From a managerial perspective, Ashton had no experience leading people before riding his infamous name ID from the Casey Anthony case to defeat longtime prosecutor Lawson Lamar.
How someone who lost the biggest case in the office’s history became it’s top prosecutor is just baffling. Ashton has yet to report his income from his book deal, where he attempted to explain away his abysmal defeat.
Aside from a poor temperament, his ethics in the courtroom has also been questioned multiple times.
He was once disciplined by the Supreme Court for withholding evidence, and a murder case was overturned as a result (State of Florida vs. Steven Huggins), which is downright shameful.
When it comes to payment for work rendered in his capacity as State Attorney, Ashton and his sycophantic top Lt. Linda Drane Burdick enjoy six figure salaries. Ashton actually draws two salaries because he is collecting his full retirement in addition to his 150K+ salary while he leisurely searches the internet.
As the Casey Anthony trial shaped up, Ashton, a serial overcharger, went for the death penalty in an effort to grab headlines even though the evidence in no way suggested how Caylee Anthony died. That again calls into question his ethics.
Many within the office knew this was a stretch and would likely not end in a conviction, but Jeff had to milk the case for all it was worth.
In addition to his high flying salary, this decision made the Casey Anthony case the most expensive case ever tried by the Orange/Osceola County SA office, costing almost $400k just for sequestering the jury.
Fast forward the tragic outcome of that case, and you see Ashton campaigning for top prosecutor by slamming his onetime boss for the lowest conviction rate in the entire state.
“When our conviction rate becomes the second lowest in the entire state, it is something we should talk about,” Ashton stated.
But after the East Orlando Post exposed his horrid record last week, Ashton reasoned that numbers and statistical data did not matter and voters should ignore his lackluster record.
Which is it Jeff?
Instead of providing an honest appraisial, he tried to compare the numbers of his predecessor and his own. The only problem with that? The numbers still aren’t on his side.
In his last year in office, Lawson Lamar’s team tried over 100 more cases than Ashton. Another lie, another misrepresentation, totally unchecked by the local media.
View the numbers below.
When trying to understand the mental and numerical gymnastics that Ashton and his office are spinning to the public, you begin to realize that it’s a direct result of an office replete with cronyism.
According to a source within the office, Ashton surrounds himself with and appoints “YES” men and woman, who implicitly follow his orders although they don’t agree with his policies and his unprofessional demeanor and behavior.
In doing so, Ashton broke up and actually shut down the sex crimes and domestic violence units, and merged them both together. This decision was opposed by all seasoned prosecutors, even those assembled as Ashton’s praetorian guard.
Ashton’s decision to abandon training for new hires has had catastrophic effects in the courtroom.
The new setup recently lead to an easily prosecutable sexual battery trial of defendant Harold Dominique to be tossed out at trial when the judged reduced it to a misdemeanor battery, because the prosecutor failed to enter evidence: a mistake that a first year law student would not make.
Ashton’s decision to rearrange the office in a way that placed himself and his allies in total control of all departments resulted in an almost 80% attrition rate among the merged sex crimes division. This means less experienced prosecutors are trying the office’s more serious cases.
Furthermore, top Ashton allies are rarely seen working in the office, For example, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick has tried only one known case in his tenure that was overturned on appeal, lending employees to wonder what it is exactly that she does there.
Worst yet, Ashton’s first boss and noted curmudgeon Robert Eagen nets nearly $90k a year, although his lack of attendance at work is a constant conversation around the office.
When he is at work, he is so technologically unprepared that it takes several people to handle his computer and prepare his work in digital format.
Ashton also brought in two of his close buddies and offered them jobs at salaries significantly higher than prosecutors with similar prosecutorial experience in similar jobs.
Such flagrant episodes of cronyism have contributed to lack of moral which has resulted in a constant revolving door.
With the election for Orange/Osceola State Attorney being held this Tuesday, voters should consider all these factors when deciding to re-elect Ashton or go another route.
Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org